WASHINGTON (AP) -- A jump in volatile commercial aircraft demand likely boosted U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods in April. However, business investment is expected to weaken for the third straight month, signaling more trouble for American factories.
Economists forecast that orders for durable goods rose 1.7 percent in April, according to a survey by FactSet.
The Commerce Department will release the report at 8:30 a.m. EDT Friday.
Durable goods are items expected to last at least three years. Orders tend to fluctuate sharply from month to month.
In March, orders dropped 6.9 percent, largely because of a steep decline in defense and aircraft products.
Still, a measure of business investment plans, which include industrial machinery and computers, fell 0.6 percent. That followed an even steeper 4.8 percent decline in February. Economists at JPMorgan Chase believe the investment category will decline 0.5 percent in the April report.
Factories are seeing fewer orders in part because of a weaker global economy, which has reduced demand for U.S. exports. That's unlikely to change now that a recession of the 17 European Union countries that use the euro has extended into its sixth quarter.
U.S. businesses are also worried about across-the-board federal spending cuts and higher taxes. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the impact of the spending cuts and tax hikes could trim about 1.5 percentage points from growth this year.
Several reports have shown that factories' struggles carried over into April and May.
The Institute for Supply Management reported factory activity barely expanded in April, held back by weaker hiring and less company stockpiling.
Manufacturing output dropped 0.4 percent last month, the Federal Reserve reported earlier this month. Auto companies cranked out fewer cars, factories made fewer consumer goods and most other industries reduced output.
And regional surveys from the Fed showed factory activity in both the New York and Philadelphia regions shrank in May.
One bright spot for the economy has been the American consumer, who has shown surprising resilience this year despite paying higher Social Security taxes.
Consumer spending rose from January through March at the fastest pace in more than two years. And Americans boosted their spending at retailers in April, from cars and clothes to electronics and appliances.
A better job market and a sustained recovery in housing have helped soften some of the impact of the tax increase. Since November, employers have added an average 208,000 jobs a month. That's up from just 138,000 jobs a month during the previous six months.
The overall economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 percent in the January-March quarter, buoyed by the fastest rise in consumer spending in more than two years. Many economists believe growth is slowing to around 2 percent in the current April-June quarter and could stay near or slightly above that level for the rest of the year.